Hearing loss has many different causes, some of which can be treated with medicine and surgery.
There are three types of hearing loss:
- Conductive. Hearing loss due to problems with the ear canal, ear drum, or middle ear.
- Sensorineural. Hearing loss due to problems with the inner ear and inner ear nerve.
- Mixed. Hearing loss that is a combination of the two.
Tinnitus is the term used to describe any kind of ear or head noise. Most people will experience it at some point during their lifetime. The most common forms are high pitch tones, ocean roar, seashell hiss, white noise or buzzing. Tinnitus is a symptom of underlying hearing loss. Therefore, a full evaluation by an audiologist including a hearing test is mandatory. Tinnitus is almost always subjective, meaning that it can only be heard by the person with the tinnitus. In rare instances, a muscle spasm can cause tinnitus, and this type of tinnitus can be heard by the physician as well as the individual.
After the medical evaluation, blood tests, hearing tests and radiographic studies, ENT physicians will determine whether medication or surgery is required. Many times, if there is a substantial hearing loss, the solution is as simple as hearing aids. In 78% of tinnitus cases, the tinnitus is reduced or extinguished entirely when wearing properly fit hearing aids. In addition, auditory stimulation by hearing aids may help to delay or prevent atrophy of the hearing nerve when the person has substantial hearing loss. Severe cases of tinnitus may require a combination of hearing aids, medication, vitamins, tinnitus maskers, tinnitus retraining therapy, and/or biofeedback therapy. In some cases medication administered by intratympanic injection may be indicated.
In summary, tinnitus is a common symptom that is caused by a wide variety of treatable medical conditions, and sometimes can be an indication of a serious medical problem. At Pacific Eye, Ear and Skull Base Center, we find that we can improve or extinguish tinnitus in most individuals by employing thorough evaluation and treatment regimes.